High Resolution Photo of the Day

Fred Benenson, September 12th, 2008

Blogger and Director of Content Development @, Eric Mortensen, does a fantastic job of curating high resolution Creative Commons licensed photos. He uses Flickr’s ‘Favorite‘ function in an innovative way — all the work he favorites gets pushed to a RSS feed that you can subscribe to. Here’s a clip of the gallery he’s been curating for a while, with over 600 images, almost all licensed under CC:

Thank Eric, for showing how easy it is to showcase and curate the commons.


CC Licensed Image on Rapid City/Gillete Phone Book

Cameron Parkins, September 10th, 2008

Sylvan Sunset | Scott Carpenter CC BY

It certainly isn’t the most publicized use of CC licences we have seen, but Scott Carpenter’s “Slyvan Sunsetappearing on the cover of the 2008/2009 Rapid City/Gillete Phone Book has us ecstatic nonetheless. While big names help gain wider exposure for CC, it is important to remember that these are tools meant for everyone, of which Carpenter’s photo re-use is an excellent example. From

Last September I received an email from someone at Yellowbook, saying that they were interested in using my picture for the cover of the Rapid City phone book […] I said that they were already free and welcome to use it under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license with which it was published, but that I’d be willing to relicense it as Attribution only, which I did, and also signed a form giving them permission to use it. I often wondered if I should have held out for money also, but seeing the small role of the picture, it’s just as well I didn’t. Something tells me they wouldn’t have paid much for that, if anything, and I’m simply pleased to get some exposure and have an artifact of free culture–the CC license–appear right there on the cover of an old media phone book.

Carpenter’s experience highlights many of the things we love to see – licences increasing content visibility, the ability for a creator to reach a separate agreement outside their original CC license, and proper and thorough attribution (even if we have to agree with Carpenter that a graphic designer might “balk at this kind of verbiage […] with the picture being such a minor part of the page”). Kudos to Carpenter and the countless others who use CC for everyday reasons and, every so often, experience surprising results.

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CC Talks With: Richard Stevens

Cameron Parkins, September 9th, 2008

Richard Stevens, known to many as simply rstevens, has been a major presence in webcomics for the better part of a decade, gaining notoriety through his popular webcomic Diesel Sweeties. In March of this year, he chose to release the entire archive for DS (nearly 2,000 comics) under a CC BY-NC license, opening up a collection of incredibly witty and sharply designed comics to the masses. We recentlly caught up with rstevens to learn more about his comics and work in general, why he chose to use CC, and what kind of effect it has had on Diesel Sweeties.

Can you give our readers some background on who you are and what you do? How long have you been working in the webcomic world? How did you end up there?

I’m a comic book nerd born a few months before Star Wars who studied and taught graphic design, but wound up getting to be a cartoonist. I’m a big Mac fan, even though they’re popular again and I spend most of my time walking around writing or making coffee.

I’ve been doing Diesel Sweeties on the web since early 2000 and it’s been my job since 2002. I did a parallel version for newspapers that ran from 2007-2008.
Read More…

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Idée Multicolr Search Now Includes 10 Million CC-Licensed Flickr Images

Cameron Parkins, September 4th, 2008

Idée Labs, the “technolgy playground” for image identification and visual search software company Idée, updated their Multicolr Search today to include 10 million CC-licensed images pulled from Flickr’s interesting images pool. The simple interface allows you to search Flickr according to a specific color palette (up to 10 colors total), shooting back 50 image sets that are aesthetically stunning.

Below are two purple/yellow palette sets taken from Idée’s announcement – the first image has a greater presence of yellows while the second emphasizes purples:

Check out Idée’s post about Multicolr Search to learn more about the tool or, better yet, experiment with it yourself. It is a ton of fun and a great way to find some really beautiful CC-licensed images.

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HOWTO Rock Flickr like a champ

Mike Linksvayer, August 28th, 2008

Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb lays it out:

Turn on Creative Commons Licensing

It’s easy to turn the default setting for new photos uploaded to Creative Commons Attribution (our favorite) by visiting the Privacy & Permissions tab in your account. Unfortunately there’s not clear, working links from Flickr to an explanation of the different licenses. Here they are on the Creative Commons site.

CC Attribution is a license that says other people can use it and change it, including in a commercial context, as long as they give you attribution as the creator. It greases the wheels for quick and easy media sharing. That’s good and it would be nice if more quality media was licensed this way. We keep a link to the Creative Commons by Attribution search on Flickr in our browser toolbar and use it frequently for photos in posts. Those could be your photos we and others are using!

(Emphasis added.)

Read the whole article for Marshall’s other helpful suggestions on how to make the most out of Flickr.

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CC Talks With: Illegal Art

Derek Slater, October 1st, 2005

A museum exhibit called “Illegal Art” might sound like a history of naughty pictures. Turns out that the exhibit (through July 25 at SF MOMA Artist’s Gallery) is more innocuous than most primetime TV: A Mickey Mouse gasmask. Pez candy dispensers honoring fallen hip-hop stars. A litigious Little Mermaid. Not kids’ stuff, exactly—but illegal?

Copyright holders have threatened and sued many of the show’s artists for sampling, remixing, and recontextualizing other people’s artistic creations without permission. Featuring audio and visual exhibits, a full length CD, and several films, the show highlights how copyright, typically considered an engine of creativity, can stifle art and free speech.

“Copyright is often so esoteric and theoretical,” said Carrie McLaren, the exhibit’s curator. “We wanted to make copyright’s problems as real to the average person as they are to our featured artists.”

McLaren originally developed “Illegal Art” to support the unsuccessful legal challenge to Congress’ latest copyright extension. Copyrights originally lapsed after 14 years with a possible 14 year extension, allowing artists to build upon a rich array of past works. Disney, for example, recycled Snow White, Cinderella, and many other Brothers Grimm fairy tales that were public domain and thus free to reuse. Today, copyrights last 95 years for corporations or life plus 70 years for individual artists. Because of Congress’ eleven retroactive term extensions over the last forty years, no one can do to Disney what Disney did to the Brothers Grimm.

Until the terms end, copyright owners retain several exclusive rights, including the right to make derivative works. Before you make Rocky X or remix Eminem’s hit “Stan,” you have to obtain permission—read: navigate a labyrinth of red tape—from the work’s copyright holder. Every appropriation is presumptively a misappropriation.

Because this exclusive right is in tension with free speech, artists can invoke fair use to defend their adaptations. Just as courts have protected controversial speech by setting high standards for libel, courts have identified commentary, criticism, and parody in particular as fair uses.

Most works in “Illegal Art” arguably fit this exception: they take “elements of our mass media environment to express how the artist feels about our culture,” McLaren said. Some works probe the ways mass media mixes commerce and art, while other pieces twist societal icons to critique mainstream culture. Kieron Dwyer’s “Consumer Whore” graphic remakes the Starbucks logo into a preppy, cell-phone-yapping, princess of the dollar.

Nonetheless, the lack of a clear, consistent fair use doctrine has created a strong chilling effect on “Illegal Art” parodists and others like them. Judges use a complex balancing test that weighs the new work’s purpose and commercial impact along with the degree to which the new work transforms the original, among other factors. Even when the Supreme Court ruled that rap group 2 Live Crew was not liable for a parody of Roy Orbison’s “Oh Pretty Woman,” the Court indicated that parody’s protection could be trumped in future cases.

Because of fair use’s ambiguity, critical reuses are still regularly litigated. To avoid embarrassment, copyright holders may try to silence critics and parodists, who often do not have the financial resources to fight back. Though he convinced a judge that his work was a parody, Dwyer was unable to fight on after a year in court and reluctantly agreed to a lopsided settlement. Who needs a defamation claim, likely to fall short of steep legal standards, when a simple copyright cease-and-desist letter will do the trick?

The law is far less forgiving for uses that are not overtly parodic or critical, even if they are highly transformative or borrow only trivial portions. Rapper Biz Markie was told by a judge “Thou shalt not steal” after he sampled twenty seconds of a Gilbert O’Sullivan track. The ruling revolutionized rap from share-and-share-alike to pay-to-play.

Sampling is now something that only people with significant wealth and the right contacts can do. When Redd Kross rock guitarist Steve McDonald added bass tracks to his labelmates The White Stripes’ “White Blood Cells,” he was lucky enough to run into the band and get permission. For most artists, clearing a copyright is too cumbersome, even when the sampled artists do not mind the sampling. Island Records sued Bay Area-based collage pioneers Negativland for parodying a U2 song, though, in a later interview, U2’s lead guitarist said he “didn’t have any problem with” the song and that “the lawsuit was not our lawsuit.”

Had these legal limitations existed years ago, perhaps collage, rap, and Pop Art would have been sued to death before they ever had a chance to flourish. These days, the implication is that these appropriations are lower artforms, deserving legal treatment suited to petty thievery.

“The law presumes that sampling intends to undermine the work of others,” said Mark Hosler of Negativland, whose work is featured in the exhibit and who are helping to develop Creative Commons’ sampling license. “When we make our art to critique others, we’re doing it because we’re inspired by what we find, and I think that’s true of many collage artists. Collage has been a legitimate form of art for a long time, and it’s everywhere in today’s society.”

It’s everywhere in part because cheap editing software and the Internet have made sampling accessible to anyone. Thriving communities of DJs, collagists, and “fan fiction” writers collaborating on and sharing their works exist throughout the Web.

Sampling’s everywhere for another reason. Corporate copyright holders, after years of battling the artform, are now appropriating it. Marketed as a near-revolution in filmmaking, Dreamworks has given Mike Myers an exclusive right to insert himself into certain old movies. Meanwhile, several record labels are allowing people to combine three mainstream music tracks for a Lollapalooza concert contest; of course, all entrees immediately become the labels’ property. Now that the “Illegal Art” artists and many more have popularized their artistic practice and suffered for it, corporate copyright holders are ready to reap the rewards.

To provoke a rethinking of how we treat appropriation art, the “Illegal Art” exhibit is touring the country to show people the value and plight of appropriation artists. Many groups are working alongside the exhibit to achieve its goals, like the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, a joint effort by several law school clinics, that documents and assists accused online artists.

Creative Commons addresses the other end of copyright, providing artists with licenses that permit reuse of their works. Creative Commons licensing is in one sense a pragmatic solution to copyright’s ills. Artists who want to license their works can easily express their preferences in a way that others can identify and trust. In this way, Creative Commons licensing has enabled collaborations that might otherwise require a lawyer and a dozen inquiries. For example, Colin Mutchler submitted “My Life,” an acoustic guitar song, to Opsound, a music registry that requires Attribution-Share Alike licensing; Cora Beth, a total stranger to Colin, then layered a violin onto the song to make “My Life Changed.” No copyright lawyers were consulted—or harmed—in the process.

In another sense, Creative Commons licensing is symbolic. It shows that alternatives to the current legal regime are possible. Artists can create a world where the law meets their expectations about legitimate appropriations — where museums and sterile McMash-Up contests aren’t the only places to see new kinds of art.


CC Talks With: Interview with Flickr

Matt Haughey, October 1st, 2005

Flickr is a new photo management application that lets you annotate photos, share them with friends and family, and now, apply Creative Commons licenses to your shared photos. Flickr’s co-founder, Stewart Butterfield, talked to Creative Commons about this interesting application.

Creative Commons: Can you tell us how flickr came to be?

Stewart Butterfield, Flickr: That’s a long and twisted story! In many ways, Flickr is still coming to be. We decided to begin development on a photo sharing application on December 8th, 2003, and the first preview release went live on February 10th.

featured Flickr work
Stef Noble’s Photos
Share Alike 2.0

Since then it has changed a lot, and the emphasis has shifted from a real time photosharing and instant messaging application with a heavy social networking component (which was based off of technology we had in development anyway) to a more complete way of sharing and managing photos. We’re still a little way from version 1.0, but it has been quite a ride. And the chance to develop both the code and product concept itself with tens of thousands of testers has been really gratifying (if harrowing at times).

CC: Flickr has many interesting features surrounding the idea of putting photos on the web. Can you talk about what sorts of goals you have for Flickr, and where the application might be headed?

SB: There are main things we’re setting out to do. The first is helping people make their photos available to the people who matter to them. That might mean they want to keep a blog of moments captured on their cameraphone, or it might mean that they want to show off their best pictures to the whole world in a gallery or they might want to securely and privately share photos of their kids with their family across the country.

To fulfill this, we want to get photos into and out of the system in as many ways as we can: from the web, from mobile devices, from the users’ home PCs and whatever software they are using to manage their photos. And we want to be able to push them out in as many ways as possible: on the Flickr website, in RSS feeds, via email, by posting to outside blogs or ways we haven’t thought of yet. Making it easier to get photos from one person to another in whatever way they want is a big part of what we do.

Our second big goal is to enable new ways of organizing photos. Once you make the switch to digital, it is all too easy to get overwhelmed with the number of photos you take. Albums, which are the principle way people go about organizing photos today are great — until you get to 20 or 30 or 50 of them. They worked in the days of getting rolls of film developed, but the metaphor stretches to the point of breaking in the digital age.

Part of the solution is to make the process of organizing photos collaborative. In Flickr, you can give your friends, family, and other contacts permission to organize your photos — not just to add comments, but also notes and tags. By capturing the conversations people have about photos anyway, we can safely give up on structured metadata and still have a rich index to search on, so you can still find just the right photo years from now. In a way it’s like the difference between Google and Yahoo, back when Yahoo’s approach was still focused on getting human beings to do the upfront organization of the web into a hierarchy.

CC: How does Flickr use Creative Commons licenses? Do you see Creative Commons licenses solving problems for Flickr creators and visitors?

SB: We allow members to select a default Creative Commons license for all photos they upload and the ability to control licensing on a photo-by-photo basis. This gives people the most flexibility. And I think it does solve a real problem for some people: they want to be able to post their photos on the web and still express their preference as to how their work gets used.

This was an important step for us; as individuals and as a company we believe in and want to support free culture. Creative Commons licensing is great because it just sort of “snaps in” — the hard thinking has already been done, and even some of the technical work. In the longer term we’ll be adding a lot of features which will help viewers find Creative Commons-licensed photos: by license type, by subject, by photographer, and so on. With a powerful search interface we hope that this will become a valuable resource. The best case is really that the creativity that goes into people’s contributions to Flickr goes on to spark yet more creative work by more people around the world. And then they tell two friends …

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